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Ethiopia, Eritrea sign statement declaring end of war

© Twitter: Yemane G. Meskel (@hawelti) | Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (left) and Eritrean Prime Minister Isaias Afwerki sign a statement declaring an end of war on July 9, 2018.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-07-09

Leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a joint statement Monday declaring an end to the state of war after decades of diplomatic and armed strife.

Quoting from a "Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship" that was signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane G. Meskel said on Twitter the "state of war that existed between the two countries has come to an end. A new era of peace and friendship has been ushered [in]."

"Both countries will work to promote close cooperation in political, economic, social, cultural and security areas," Yemane added.

He said the agreement was signed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Monday morning at State House in Asmara, Eritrea's capital.

Images of the ceremony showed the two men sharing a wooden desk, backed by their nations' flags, as they simultaneously signed the document.

Historic meeting

The signing came a day after Ahmed and Afwerki held a historic meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Sunday.

The sudden rapprochement will spell an end to a years-long cold war that has hurt both countries.

The Horn of Africa nations have remained at loggerheads since Ethiopia rejected a United Nations ruling and refused to cede to Eritrea land along the countries' border following a 1998-2000 war that killed 80,000 people.

The re-establishment of diplomatic and trade ties after years of bitter separation could mean big benefits for both nations, and the wider Horn of Africa region, plagued by conflict and poverty.

Once a province of Ethiopia that comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea, Eritrea voted to leave in 1993 after a decades-long, bloody independence struggle.

The break rendered Ethiopia landlocked, and the deterioration of relations due to the continuing cold war forced Ethiopia to rely on Djibouti for its sea trade.

Ethiopian access to Eritrea's ports will be an economic boon for both, as well as posing a challenge to the increasing dominance of Djibouti, which had benefitted from importing and exporting the vast majority of goods to Africa's second-most populous country.

Free movement across the border will also unite, once again, two peoples closely linked by history, language and ethnicity.

Diplomatic thaw

Sunday's historic visit came after Abiy's move last month to abide by the 2002 decision from the UN-backed commission aimed at settling Ethiopia and Eritrea's border dispute, which fuelled the two-year war.

The UN decision awards chunks of land along the border, including the flashpoint town of Badme, to Eritrea.

Ethiopia had rejected the ruling and continues to occupy the town, sparking a heated rivalry between the two countries that has over the years erupted in gunfire.

Both nations have supported rebel groups intent on overthrowing the other's government and periodically engaged in direct deadly skirmishes along the border.

Eritrea has used the threat of Ethiopian aggression to justify repressive policies, including an indefinite national service programme the UN has likened to slavery.

Abiy took office in April and quickly pursued an ambitious reform agenda that has reversed some of the touchstone policies of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

He has released prominent dissidents from jail and also announced the partial liberalisation of the economy.

Some have raised concerns that the pace of Abiy's reforms may upset some party hardliners. Last month a grenade was thrown at a rally the prime minister addressed in Addis Ababa.

Abiy's decision to honour the boundary ruling began a rapid diplomatic thaw, paving the way for two top Eritrean officials to visit Addis Ababa last month, after which the meeting between the two leaders was announced.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2018-07-09

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